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Band Sight-Reading Criteria (Revised 2022)

Preface: Band Sight-Reading Music

A primary goal of our music programs should be to produce students who are musically literate and prepared to experience a lifetime of musical enrichment. The development of sight-reading skills is central to the achievement of this primary goal and also facilitates the successful performance of a greater body of musical literature. Therefore, the development of specific sight-reading skills should be included at all levels of instruction and should encompass the essential elements of performance required to make appropriate, independent musical judgements, and insure success during the initial reading of a musical work.

The primary purpose of the commissioned sight-reading music is to test musical literacy at specific levels. The guidelines stated for the sight-reading material provide the composer with a parameter of difficulty in composing music for each specific classification. All of the elements need not be used in each composition.

The UIL has historically revisited its own contest regulations and procedures in order to stay current and relevant with the evolution of techniques and rehearsal practices utilized by scholastic music organizations throughout the state. As our member schools continue to assert themselves as national leaders in elevating performance standards, it would be natural to adjust accordingly the expectations and performance standards in the sight-reading room. Any adopted changes made to either procedures or musical criteria should only occur with the intention of moving the activity forward and reaffirming the original mission of creating life-long music learners, performers, and patrons of the arts.

Specific Criteria for Composing Band Sight-Reading Music

Composers of UIL band sightreading music are provided the following specific criteria:

  • Composers of Level I-II-III compositions are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the scoring practices that are common place in Grade I-II-III educational music. A comprehensive listing of such works can be found in the UIL Prescribed Music List. Music directors of bands at these levels should realistically expect the music their students encounter in the sight-reading room to be similar in craft to the music they see everyday in the rehearsal hall. For example, isolated entrances, independent lines for single instruments or exposed passages for color instruments (regardless of how simple) should be avoided.
  • Include measure numbers and appropriately placed rehearsal numbers should be present throughout the score.
  • Avoid specific metronome markings. Instead use tempo indications such as andante, allegro, etc.
  • Do not indicate cues in either the score or the parts. They tend to create confusion in the sight-reading room. Either double the parts (usually a good idea, especially at Levels I-II-III) or omit the cues entirely.
  • Strive to keep the notation as large as possible and the score page as uncluttered as possible. Very small notation as well as excessive lines and measures on a page are difficult to read and tend to cause both confusion and frustration for the directors.
  • Be very specific and clear about percussion instrumentation. For example directors should not find themselves looking at the score during the explanation period and wondering if the part is for crash cymbals or suspended cymbal.
  • Try to avoid any device that might be viewed as a “trick”. Technically, rhythmically and harmonically, the music should be straightforward and logical.
  • Be very careful about the use of divisi. Placing multiple parts on the same staff with accidentals, polyrhythms and note stems going in opposite directions can be confusing.
  • Time your composition at performance tempo to make sure that it meets the time limit requirement.

Sight-Reading Levels and Conference Assignment

Level Conference Non-Varsity & Sub Non-Varsity
I 1C ALL MS NV/Sub NV & 1A/2A/3A NV/Sub NV
II 2C/1A/2A 4A NV/Sub NV
III 3C/3A 5A NV/Sub NV
IV 4A 6A NV/Sub NV
V 5A  
VI 6A  

Level I - Conference 1C Varsity; ALL MS NV & 1A/2A/3A NV

Length: One and one-half minutes or less. 

Key: Concert B-flat, E-flat with no key changes.

Meter: Listed below with no meter change. 

Meter 4-4


Basic Patterns – Quarter rests on count 1 & eighth rests are not permitted. 

Quarter Note Half Note Dot Half Whole Note 2 eighth note

Percussion Only

16-16 4-16

Level II – Conference 2C & 1A/2A Varsity; 4A NV

Length: One and one-half minute or less.

Key: Concert F, B-flat, E-flat with no key changes.



Level III - Conference 3C & 3A Varsity; 5A NV

Length: Two minutes or less.


Meter: Listed below with no meter changes.

Meter 2-4 Meter 3-4 Meter 4-4 

The 2023 Level 3 composition contains a meter change from 4/4 to 3/4. All bands will stop at the end of the last 4/4 measure.


Basic Patterns

Rhythm Quarter Rhythm Half Rhythm Dot Half Rhythm Whole Rhythm 2-8th Rhythm Dot 4-8 

Percussion Only

Rhythm dot 8s  Rhythm 4-16 Rhythm 8-16-16

Level IV - Conference 4A Varsity; 6A NV

Length: Two and one-half minutes or less. 

Key: Concert F, B-flat, E-flat, A-flat Major & relative minors with one key change. 

Meter: SAME AS LEVEL III with a meter change 

Rhythm: Basic patterns for winds & percussion.


Level V - Conference 5A Varsity

Length: Three minutes or less.

Key: Concert F, B-flat, E-flat, A-flat Major & relative minors with up to two key changes.

Meter: Listed below with two meter changes.

Meter 2-4 Meter 3-4 Meter 4-4 Meter 6-8 Meter C

Rhythm: Basic patterns for winds & percussion.

Rhythm Quarter Rhythm Half Rhythm Dot Half Rhythm Whole Rhythm 2-8 Rhythm Dot 4-8 Rhythm 8-4-8 Rhythm Dot 8 Rhythm Triplet Rhythm 4-16 Rhythm 8-16-16 Rhythm 16-16-8

Level VI - Conference 6A

Length: Three and one-half minutes or less.

Key: Concert C, F, B-flat, E-flat, A-flat Major, & relative minors with up to three key changes.

Meter: SAME AS LEVEL V with three meter changes.